Cultivating Sustainable Lifestyles
UNESCO, IEF Conference: at the University of Thessaloniki, Greece, 15-17 October 2004
Victoria W. Thoresen, The Consumer Citizenship Network, Project Manager, University
College of Hedmark, Norway
Teaching responsibility is one of the major challenges facing parents and educators today. It is
not a matter of teaching about responsibility but about becoming responsible citizens. It is not
a matter of abstract characteristics, but about the art of making adequate responses to the
knowledge—scientific and spiritual – which exists of the present condition of individuals,
societies and nature around the globe. Teaching responsibility involves understanding how
choices are made, how resources are managed, how conflicts are solved and how to contribute
to the future. It requires experimental, participatory learning which includes ―service to
humanity‖. This presentation will examine good practices from numerous countries. It will
also reflect upon the importance of learning responsibility as an integral aspect of the United
Nation‘s Decade for education for sustainable development.
A labyrinth of choices
Life is a labyrinth of choices— not just passageways with corners, but doors which open and
close, often obstructing the view of where we have come from and where we are going. To
understand how we best can progress in this labyrinth it is necessary to start by looking at
how people have approached the task in the past and then consider what wisdom can be
gained and passed on to coming generations. Education involves the transferral of insight to
students and the stimulation of their motivation to learn and act on what they have learned.
Far from being a ―fact factory‖ or a ―brain- washing bonanza‖, education is per definition the
―process of leading forward‖ (edu-care), of providing guidance for dealing with a labyrinth of
Approaches to responsibility
Few animals care for their young as long as humans. By doing so, humans increase their
species‘s chances of survival. Sociobiological theories based on the biological determination
of actions and emotions, (Wilson 1971), connect processes such as caring, defending,
sheltering, feeding and educating to natural motivation associated with functioning in a
physical environment. Taking responsibility for kin or group members is identified as being
an instinctive reaction to possible threats. One constant physical threat is that of degeneration.
Existence is dependent on effort. Without food, we starve to death. Without mobilizing
energy, we stagnate. Without involvement, community life dissolves. Civilization has,
however, evolved in ways which have required functional competences based on more than
purely biological awareness. The complex social and intellectual systems which humans are a
part of influence their modes of behaviour.
Most social systems require individual members to contribute to the maintenance of the
existence of the group to which they belong. The dialectic relationship of the individual to the
group creates limits to acceptable behaviour and defines identities. Social interaction is
considered a main source of encouragement. In other words, being responsible becomes a way
of indicating commitment to the group and gaining mutually satisfying rewards (be they
money, services, goods or intangibles like information, status, or love). Theories supporting
this are often referred to as social-exchange theories (Thibaut & Kelly 1959, Foa & Foa 1976)
Theories of social interaction have given rise to schools of thought called social
constructivism. The individual is considered to be a product of how others experience
him/her. The dialectics of interaction create personalities and form behaviour. One
consequence of this approach is the individual‘s total rejection of responsibility: ―I am only a
product of how others see me and therefore my behaviour is entirely everyone else‘s fault.‖
Responsibility becomes transferred to those who ―construct‖ the individual‘s personality.
Another consequence is the individualist conviction that ―My fate depends only on myself. I
can blame no one for failures and shortcomings.‖ (Bruckner 1995) This leads to a guilt-laden
attitude to responsibility in which the individual alone feels ultimately responsible for
Despite these two extremes, many scientists agree that normative social influence combined
with what some refer to as natural altruistic and empathic actions (when a person without
apparent gain acts to reduce the distress of another person) form the basis for what is often
called ―prosocial‖ behaviour. (Batson & Olesen 1991) However research indicates that
prosocial behaviour seems to dissipate when situations provide the opportunity for diffusion
of responsibility. In cases where studies have been made of information interpretation and
individual initiatives, a significant procent of those tested failed to respond to potential danger
when in the presence of others. (Latane & Darley 1968)
This has lead to theories on the cumulative processes of prosocial behaviour, in which
individuals learn from experience how to react responsibly in given settings. Thus the
―nature-nuture‖ dilemma applies as well to the challenge of acting responsibly. Learning
prosocial behaviour occurs in part through trial and error and in part through conceptualizing
desired outcomes of situations. Gaining insight into what constitutes positive responses
involves defining what kind of life one wants to live personally and collectively. It also
requires reflection upon what has been called the Tragedy of the Commons (Marshall 1920)
or the dilemma of deciding between two or more seemingly positive values.
Political systems (be they representative democracies or totalitarian dictatorships) go to great
lengths to define visions of desired futures. They emphasize the necessity of the citizen‘s
active participation in order for their system to function. Rules of conduct are often
delineated in constitutions and charters. In democracies, who has responsibility for what is
identified in general terms. Courts and laws exist to further determine who has the task of
carrying out specific actions. Individual-, corporate- and governmental responsibility evolve
from the priorities of a given period. Internationally, the existing human rights declaration has
in many countries been accepted as a common denominator for acceptable priorities.
Similarly, other international treaties and pacts reflecting public opinion and the will of the
constituents have influenced the existing definitions of responsibility. The moral imperatives
of political doctrines are, in general, upheld by judicial enforcement. At the moment the
international community has challenged itself to achieve the Millennium goals and move
towards sustainable development.
Religions have, throughout the ages, also provided humankind with visions of the ―ideal
society‖ and the ―noble individual‖. Responsibility has been characterized as a source of
integrity and moral obligation. It has been the cornerstone of nobility and is based on love and
faith. The morals of religions have been long term commitments rather than short term
personal involvements. Religious leaders have provided ―hard core principles‖, fixed
standards, as opposed to sets of soft values which can be modified under varying
circumstances. The morals which religions expound act as a measuring stick or goal post
against which individuals can evaluate their attitudes and actions.
By looking even more closely at the role of religion in providing moral imperatives for
responsible actions, one must acknowledge the fact that religion, based on acceptance of
Divine revelation, sees ultimate authority as resting with God rather than the individual or
society. Those who believe divine revelation to be a singular historical event often encounter
difficulties when identifying responsible behaviour for present day situations based on century
old explanations. For those who accept the notion of progressive revelation, God continually
unveils for humankind the principles of an ever advancing civilization. Thus the religious
guidelines (or moral directives) can remain updated and relevant, offering spiritual guidance
for responsible responses.
The present labyrinth
In order to be able to pass through life‘s labyrinth of choices, and contribute to sustainable
development, it is necessary to understand how the present paradigm of shared responsibility
has come about. The following is a brief reflection of some central changes which have taken
place in recent years and thus significantly affect the choices individuals make.
Fredrico Mayor, former director-general of UNESCO, quotes: ―We cannot fail to observe the
increase in ‗soul-sickness‘ at the very heart of the most prosperous societies and social
categories which seem best protected from misfortune. The heart itself seems pray to a
curious void, indifference and passivity grow, there is an ethical desert, passions and emotions
are blunted, people‘s eyes are empty and solidarity evaporates. Grey areas expand, mafias
work their way into the heart of states and of financial markets, and the law of the jungle
prevails.‖ (1) Moral rationality seems to be yielding to economic rationality and the media
dominates as the arena for moral discourse (2). Fear motivates both governments and
individuals while young and old become more passive and convinced their efforts will have
little or no effect.
But strangely enough, while statistics support this dismal description of a world in disease,
there is also proof of the existence of an unprecedented number of examples of cooperation,
assistance, new technologies and opportunities for the exchange of knowledge, for debate,
complaint, redress, guidance and change initiation. International movements have evolved,
creating identities which transcended the boundaries of the nation state, for example: the rise
of international news media; the Suffrage Movement for women‘s right to vote; the expansion
of the trade Unions and the rise of the anti-slavery movement, the rapid growth of
international technical organizations such as the Universal Postal Union and the Food and
agriculture Organization, and humanitarian organizations such as the International Red Cross.
Other examples of changes in the patterns of the social labyrinth of this age have been the use
of third party nations to mediate between two countries in dispute and the use of international
commissions of inquiry and the peaceful settlement of international disputes by arbitration.
The emergence of international law and a host of international Treaties and agreements over
the last fifty years are also clear testimony of a world community using new methods on a
global scale to achieve common good. On a more constructive, rather than merely prohibitive
basis, the international agreements on multilateral aid (as opposed to purely bilateral aid) have
also made a great contribution to the growth of international cooperation.
Individuals today are faced with dilemmas which cause many to become perplexed and
passive. Modern everyday life has become more complex and uncertain, thus more difficult to
deal with. ―The world we live in is increasingly artificial and constructed; it is increasingly
rich in knowledge, and yet … increasingly opaque and incomprehensible … The available
technology … has forever changed the way we see the world and the way we exist in it, but
the price has been the destruction of our certainties and the growth of our perplexity.
Paradoxically, knowledge has made us more uncertain.‖ (3)
Mobility of production has dramatically altered the lifestyles of masses of people around the
world. In industrialized as well as Third World countries farmers, peasants, fishermen and
tradesmen have turned almost overnight into proletariats and more active consumers. The
mobility of production combined with technological advances in transportation and
communication have lead to the increasing mobility of populations. Urbanization began well
before the last century. It has continued with added momentum and has become one of the
major challenges to societies on all continents. Migration, both for humanitarian and
economic reasons, has resulted in the rapid transformation of homogeneous communities into
multiethnic ones with diverse consumer needs and wants. Due to the advancement of
information and communication technology, cultural (and also commercial) symbols are
transported to all corners of the globe to a degree never experienced in former decades. This
mobility of symbols provides the opportunity for a greater range of choices inspired by
commercial role models. Money is a common denominator which makes it possible to
compare a vast number of services and commodities. The expedition of the monetary flow
due to international electronic financial systems has opened markets previously closed to the
common man. Options for the acquisition of both commodities and experiences have
increased dramatically. The mobility of information is also a significant development in
society. A person‘s private life has in the past few years become a matter of public interest.
Markets collect and analyze information on what people buy, read, and use money for. Easily
accessible statistical registers indicate where people travel, what their health history is and
what income they make. Market profiles provide fuel for new international trends.
Globalization and commercial influence
In this present age of cosmopolitans, jet-setters, immigrants, tourists, refugees and corporate
cousins a large percentage of individuals‘ affiliations are related to or include a degree of
commercial activities. Market research has identified ―global elites‖ such as teen-agers, who
have the same consumption styles and prefer global brands, be they of T-shirts, jeans, pop-
music or videos. Global advertising spending is well over 435 billion USD yearly. There is a
constantly increasing flow of consumer products to new markets all over the globe.
Competition to sell on an international scale is intense and aggressive as globalization has
become a corporate ideology along the lines of global liberalism. Globalization, within the
spheres of economics as well as politics and social development, has brought magnificent
improvements and veritable tragedies. Consumption is not equally distributed around the
globe. Poor people and poor countries bear many of the costs of unequal consumption. ―The
world‘s dominant global consumers are overwhelmingly concentrated among the well-off, but
the social and environmental damage from the world‘s uncontrolled consumption falls most
severely on the poor.‖ (Human Development Report 1998) The poor often participate in the
aesthetics of consumption but not in consumption itself.
New patterns of cognitive understanding and moral development
Modern society confronts children with sights, sounds and other sensory experiences and
language codes which are multicultural, historically complex, morally diverse and most often
unrelated to their earlier impressions. The process of integrating information into meaningful
units of understanding becomes extremely elaborate, difficult and for some distressing. The
global culture demands of children, quicker reactions, greater flexibility and more extensive
creative capacities than ever before. In addition it requires more comprehensive morals in
relation to daily activities in the market place.
New forms of citizenship
Only a century ago, the focus of political involvement mostly had to do with production and
employment policies. ―Business has overtaken politics as the primary shaping force in
society…‖ claims Anita Roddick. Today the focus has shifted to the options available to the
consumer and the consequences of his/her choices. Repeated encouragement by governments
to citizens ―to produce and buy!‖ imply that consumption is a patriotic deed which
strengthens the national economy and leads to growth and well being. Critical reactions to
commercial initiatives have been considered ―unpatriotic‖. Two types of behaviour are
increasing: participation by protest (activities such as signing petitions, boycotting products,
demonstrating, staging sit-ins, etc, aimed at giving signals to those in command without
necessarily going via the elected representatives.) The second type of behaviour is
participation by association ( where citizens come together to lobby and further their ideas,
opinions, interests directly without going through the normal decision making channels) (4)
New definitions of what it means to be an active, constructive citizen are developing.
Alternative visions of the future
Sustainable development has been described in numerous international agreements,
particularly Agenda 21. Sustainable development and the Millenium Goals are glimpses of
light in the labyrinth; they represent visions of the future, long-term priorities, doors which
are not completely closed. Religious leaders such as, Baha‘u‘llah, have also provided visions
of a just and united world community characterized by individuals striving to respond
adequately to both scientific and spiritual knowledge.
―Humanity has the capacity for great feats of heroism and self-sacrifice. At the same time, it
has baser tendencies toward materialism, greed, and violence. For humanity‘s nobility to
emerge, its qualities of trustworthiness, compassion, selflessness, dedication, loyalty,
sacrifice, and service need to be nurtured and gain ascendancy over its selfish, baser impulses.
Every individual and every culture has the capacity for manifesting this inherent nobility. It is
crucial, therefore, to facilitate the unique contribution each part can make to the whole—in
particular, the development and empowerment of women. The rich diversity of humankind is
precisely what gives the emerging unity its spectacular beauty and power.‖ (5)
The motivation to learn to be responsible can come from external pressures such as fear of
disease, exclusion, disaster or chaos. Egoism and self-preservation can be determining factors.
Initiatives founded only on the need to prevent negative consequences are nurtured by a
fundamental pessimism. ―Everything is going to pieces‖. When initiatives fail, the reaction is
a justified: ―I told you so.‖ Further initiatives at being responsible are undermined by a
growing sense of pessimism. Opposition to developing a responsive character increases.
However, when motivation stems from positive responses to scientific and spiritual
knowledge then individual shortcomings can be seen in perspective. One attempt may not
necessarily achieve the expected results but the sum of similar efforts may indicate progress.
The immediate traumas of a society or civilization may seem insurmountable, but faith in the
conviction that humankind is moving in the direction of a better future provides courage and
Five basic skills are essential to learning to be responsible. These are:
-decision making skills
-problem solving skills
The goal of learning to be responsible is to develop empathy and courage as well as the
capacity for abstraction and meta-cognitive understanding. Responsibility learning involves
dealing with controversial issues and being able to personalize and integrate reflected, critical
responses into one‘s own life and actions. This means also concentrating on the process of
moral and spiritual development in which the civilizing virtues of honesty, trustworthiness,
duty, and loyalty are cultivated ―by the language of the heart and the voice of conscience‖ (6)
Another goal should be to increase awareness of the mutual interdependence between
lifestyles and natural and social processes. Thus developing risk assessment and consequence
analysis is also a goal.
Following, is an example of a list of goals connected with education for sustainable
development which is taken from Global Teacher, Global Learner (7) and provides relevant
goals for teaching responsibility.
Traditional modes of learning in school often fall into the following categories: conditional
learning, observational learning and vicarious learning. Teaching responsibility calls for
active, participatory learning which stimulates both intellect and body, mind and soul. There
exist many techniques for doing this and it is beyond the scope of this article to go into detail
about each. Instead a general list is included here followed by a set of comments about special
considerations which should be taken.
Active value choice
Problem based learning
Role playing, simulations
-Help students discover the underlying principles and values connected to issues and
To understand the need for being responsible, one must be able to answer the question,
―why?‖ Identifying ethical aspects of issues is not given priority in schools today, nor in
society at large. In fact the vocabulary for discussing value-related topics has withered and
many youth have difficulty expressing their thoughts on such matters. The informal education
received through mass media increasingly communicates images and words used in contexts
which negate common values reinforcing competition, violence, sexual tyranny, occultism,
-Reflect on one's own experiences
Schools, together with parents and religious groups, need to provide ways of stimulating
reflection by the students on the goals and practices of the modern consumer centered society.
Are the lifestyles which are marketed viable, meaningful and morally consistent? Do they
contribute to the kind of society the student is interested in building or maintaining? How do
such lifestyles fit the standards of world citizenship?
Students should practice looking at their own experiences and ask questions such as:
* How do my experiences create a certain lifestyle?
* How do I fulfill my basic needs?
* What principles do I base my lifestyle on?
* What consequences does my lifestyle have for nature and for other people?
-Personalize as well as theoretize issues Most teacher trainers struggle to keep the marriage
between theory and practice alive and healthy. Motivation for learning is of course enhanced
by being able to identify with what is being dealt with. Lessons which use as their point of
departure the experiences of the students are necessary. The famous author, George Orwell
describes in his story, Coming Up for Air, a pitiable, petit-bourgeois anti-hero called George
Bowling who squanders his modest racetrack winnings on a futile pilgrimage to the lost
fishpond of his youth, only to find a garbage heap upon which a new housing development is
growing. George‘s desperate exclamation that ―The dustbin we‘re in reaches up to the
stratosphere!‖ could well be similar to a student‘s exasperation in an equivalent situation. At
the same time, students should be helped to lift their own dilemma to higher levels of
-Identify specific ways of posing a problem
When matters of lifestyle were examined in the past the emphasis was often on purchasing
products. Then the central questions were: Is the product too expensive? Is it too cheap? Is the
quality acceptable? During recent years people have realized shopping is not always what it
seems and that there are numerous ways of approaching the issue. A few examples of relevant
ways of posing questions that students should learn to identify are:
* How does advertising influence me?
* Is the product hazardous to our health or safety?
* Has anyone been exposed to any unfair treatment in the making of the
* Does the product change the quality of my life?
* Does my consumption create any unnecessary waste?
An example of a comprehensive approach to dealing with lifestyle topics is shown at the end
of the article.
- Help students acquire an understanding of systems and processes
Everyday life in the postmodern society is complex. The competence required to handle it,
demands knowledge of numerous scientific subjects. To develop insight into the dynamics of
the consumer society the following is essential:
* Knowledge of economic principles and processes.
* Knowledge of psychological and sociological relations having to do with the forming of
identity, personality development, morals and ethics.
* Knowledge of ecology and environment politics.
* Knowledge of laws and agreements made to protect the individual, of interest
organizations, public councils and committees.
-Develop the capacity in students to listen as well as to express one‘s own ideas and map
Few problems have only one correct answer. Students should have the opportunity to find
different solutions, consider pros and cons, state the reasons both orally and written, and try
out the solutions as much as possible. If opportunities for realistic testing of solutions are
limited, one might try acting it out. Relevant questions for this part of the learning process
* What can I do?
* Is the solution a short term or long term one?
* What consequence does this particular solution have for me, for the environment
and for other people?
* Why should I chose this solution instead of the other?
* Are changes apparent after having tried this solution?
* Has it led to any change in my own behavior?
In multicultural communities, such as those from which most of us come, there will seldom be
complete moral consensus on issues. Knowledge of official points of view is important, but
equally essential is being aware of one‘s own values, one‘s own definition of life quality,
one‘s own attitudes towards modern consumerism. In order to assist students in reflecting
upon and discussing their own value judgments the teacher needs to be able to explain his
own and others‘ opinions. The following model was created by Prof. Heiko Steffens and
Victoria W. Thoresen.
Elements of responsible choice
needs and and
needs Rights and
and and costs
-Challenge the students‘ prejudices Many prejudices exist due to lack of experience. Some
prejudices exist due to lack of empathy. A large number of modern prejudices are due to
commercial persuasion. Teacher trainers can assist students in becoming critical, reflected
individuals, qualities which the students in turn are expected to help their pupils develop.
Instead of cooking meatballs, try one day to fry locusts (grasshoppers), an essential source of
protein for many millions of people on earth. Have students explain and compare different
economic systems including the newer so called ―green economic theories‖. Have them
consider their own needs and desires from the perspective of a poor farmer in Latin America.
Or have them react to what Der Spiegel this spring called ―consumer terrorists‖. That is to
say, businesses‘ methods of setting consumer trends amongst four- and five-year olds by
selecting ―local heroes‖, children with status amongst their friends, then giving them free toys
and clothes as long as those children encourage their friends to buy the same products.
-Use social commentary as learning material Journalists, poets, composers, playwrights,
singers, dancers and painters have throughout history commented on society and the
transformations it undergoes. They are often referred to as civilization‘s collective conscience,
as the mirror for society. The subjects they criticize, the issues they make parodies of, or the
conditions they praise are in many cases consumer topics. Use of modern and classical
literature i an important methods of learning about responsibility.
-Use of ICT (Information and Communication Technology) is essential. Many useful sites can
be found on the internet containing interactive tasks that invite the students to explore their
own sense of responsibility in relation to sustainable development.(for ex: YoMag,
YouthXchange, The Ideabank, etc)
Education for sustainable development
Lifestyles in the past and present
Students should become acquainted with the positive and negative lifestyles throughout
history and the significant changes in society. They should look at the conditions during the
last 50 years, the age of ―mass consumption‖ (1945-2000). Students should work with the
following themes: human rights, life quality and fundamental needs, development of
technology and media, sustainable development, eradication of poverty, and the debate on the
limits to growth. They should identify which ethical norms and values form the basis for
―conscientious consumption‖ which can contribute to a change of direction in which
environmental and social development are given priority.
Students should be expected to have a general understanding of central concepts and
processes connected to sustainable development. They should have a basic knowledge of the
different central schools of economic thinking such as the classical, neoclassical, humanistic
and Marxist theories of economy. They should become acquainted with some of the
transformations which occurred in society due to market economies based on reciprocality,
redistribution and free market systems. Students should also know about the differences
between feudalism, mercantilism, industrialism, and super industrialism. They should also
consider how basic needs and definitions of life quality have altered through out the centuries.
Making choices – practical and ethical aspects of making choices
Being able to choose between several alternatives is a skill which is needed in all aspects of
life. It is necessary to be able to pose relevant questions and master the art of making
decisions. Students should learn about the external factors effecting choice making (social,
political, economic, ecological and technological) as well as the personal factors effecting
choice making (values, ambitions, resources, age, health, civil status, needs and desires, and
lifestyle). In addition the decision making process itself should be examined. This involves
the process from the act of collecting information to the evaluation of the consequences of the
decisions which are made.
Students should be able to express what values direct our choices and be able to describe what
they themselves consider to be high life quality. The students should be aware of the role of
the media in society and be able to identify advertising and understand the difference between
information and advertisements. They should be capable of recognizing how the media
creates different lifestyle models which reflect distinct gender roles and physical ideals.
Students are expected to be able to carry out basic critical analysis of commercial pictures,
messages and language use. In addition they should be acquainted with the role electronic
media ( such as tv, video, computers, etc) play in transferring information and entertainment.
They should be able to use electronic information services in a reflected and critical manner.
In connection with choices in the marketplace, students should be able to compare prices and
evaluate quality. They should be aware in general of how lifestyle choices affect the
Managing resources – planning, using and protecting resources
Sustainable human development is a central goal of the global society according to the United
Nations. This means managing resources in a way which makes it possible for all people to
participate in forming their own lives now and in the future. Ecological considerations,
economic reciprocality, cooperation and equal market opportunities, so that fundamental
material and non-material needs can be meet, are central factors in managing resources on the
international level. The responsibility for managing resources encompasses planning, using
and maintaining the resources which each individual has at his/her disposition in their private
lives and in relation to the world community‘s collective life. The ability to set goals and see
the connection between ends and means is essential to resource management. Other practical
sides to resource management which should be examined include: budgeting, saving,
investing, taxes, and fees. Resource management involves capacity to protect and care for
resources through effective control, maintenance, re-usage, and replacement.
Students should be able to recognize relationships between the economy of the society and
that of the individual household and the importance of planning their personal economy. They
should be able to set up a budget, keep basic accounts and use modern technology such as
data based bank and library services. They should be able to acquire information on what
consequences consumption has for the environment. Resource management also involves
realising the need for safety controls and the students are expected to recognize safety
precautions and be acquainted with safety equipment for children.
Solving problems – diverse strategies for conflict resolution
The criteria for coexistence and cooperation between people are based on cultural norms and,
in a state governed by law, through laws and regulations. There are numerous informal and
formal ways of solving problems between individuals, between organisations or businesses,
between regions and countries. Good communication is a prerequisite for conflict resolution
as well as knowledge of local customs and what rights a person has and which responsibilities
he/she has. Teaching responsibility should deal with conflict resolution in general and in
particular in relation to student related issues such as tracassering, inclusion, lifestyle
sicknesses, etc. Students should be acquainted with rights and responsibilities and the central
laws governing these. They should be aware of the elementary rules regulating finance and
forms of payment in the household. This includes debt control and debt assistance. Students
should know where to seek help and advice in financial conflicts. They are expected to be
able to decipher labels on products, particularly in relation to safety. In addition students
should have a basic knowledge of how international trade laws influence our rights and
responsibilities as consumers.
Contributing to the future – change management and social involvement
Being able to deal with the challenges of daily living is important, but it is not sufficient in a
world in constant modification. As citizens in a democratic social system, be it local, national
or global, it is our responsibility to participate in constructing the future. It is necessary to be
conscious of the need for change and of how different processes occur. It is also essential to
develop critical thinking, creativity and active participation in influencing systems and
initiating change. This means that the students need to know how to get and interpret
scientific information and learn how to express their opinions for others. They need to know
how to find the acceptable channels for creating changes. Education for sustainable
development should deal with the individual‘s and society‘s responsibility for participating in
changes which have as their goal improved human development.
Students should be able to define what they consider to be high quality of life and identify the
values which they mean will direct lifestyle choices leading to such a life quality in the future.
At the same time they should be expected to cooperate on the task of preventing
environmental damage as much as possible from households, transport, agriculture and
industry. The students should have a reflected attitude to their lifestyle choices and
continuously develop knowledge about the consequences these choices have on a sustainable
future. This includes being aware of the existence of and being able to participate in
discussions about alternative economic systems. Students should be expected to develop the
ability not only to envision alternative futures but to create reasonable paths of action leading
There are many ways one can progress through life‘s labyrinth of choice. Being responsible is
one important way. A responsible person is a noble one and as Abdul-Baha says:
―It is possible to so adjust one‘s self to the practice of nobility that its atmosphere
surrounds and colours all our acts. When these acts are habitually and conscientiously
adjusted to noble standards with no thought of the words that herald them, then nobility
becomes the accent of life. At such a degree of evolution one scarcely needs to try to be good
any longer—all our deeds are the distinctive expression of nobility.‖ (8)
Learning goals in the work groups:
* To reach a mutual understanding of the assignment
* Decide upon appropriate working schedule
* Reach an agreement as to the value of one or several lifestyles
* Find and evaluate information about the lifestyles in question
* Make collective decisions about why a group of people prefer a specific lifestyle
Symbolic Economy Ecology
communication -costs -sustainability
-belonging -personal budget
-popularity -effects on national and -pollution factors
-timeliness global economies -energy saving factors
Technical knowledge Consumer behavior
-production -prestige value
-maintanence -influenced by ads
-repairs and alterations -static or fluctuating
-legal or illegal
ICT Sosial aspects
-use and extent -Majority or minority
-intention and effectiveness lifestyle
-side effects and -requires support from
consequences parents or others
Health and safety History
-information about risks or -traditional or modern
health giving effects -local or global
-possibilities for support or -dependent upon level of
help social welfare
Materials Product design
-user friendly -individual or standard
-side-effects -flexibel or predetermined
1) Mayor, Fredrico and Binde, Jerome; The World Ahead p. 5 (quoting: ‗The Mob on Wall
Street‘, Business Week, 16 December 1996), UNESCO Publishing/Zed Books, London/New
2) Vetlesen, Arne Johan;& Henriksen, Jan-Olav; Moralens sjanser I markedets tidsalder;
Gyldendal Akademisk; Olso, 2003.
3) Brunner, Jose Joaquin; ‗Postmodernidad y globalización,
4) Rolan-Levy, Christine& Ross, Alistair; Political learning and citizenship in Europe,
Trentham Books, UK, 2003
5) Office of social and economic development, Baha‘i World Center, Haifa, Israel; Palabra
publications USA, 2000
6) Bahai International Community Statement for the Intergovernmental Global Forum, Baha‘I
Publishing Trust, New Delhi , India, 2003
7) Selby, D& Pike, G.;Global Learner, Global teacher, London Hodder and Stoughton1992
8) Abdul-Baha, Star of the West, vol 17, p. 286, Wilmette, Illinois.
Victoria Wyszynski Thoresen is Ass. Professor in education at Hedmark University
College and project manager of the Consumer Citizenship Network, an international network
of researchers, educators in cooperation with UNESCO and UNEP. Thoresen has specialized
in curriculum development, global education, peace education, value-based education,
lifelong learning and consumer education. In addition to many years of experience as a
teacher and teacher trainer, Thoresen has been a member of the Norwegian board for the
revision of the country‘s core curriculum. Thoresen has written textbooks for schools and
teacher training and has been project leader of several Nordic and European projects. As well
as functioning as an international educational consult, she is a member of the Norwegian
Baha‘i Office of Social and Economic Development. Thoresen is also head of the board of the
Norwegian Peace Center.